Many of the products we use every day, from non-stick frying pans to plastic toys like rubber ducks, expose us to chemicals. How safe are they? Phthalates and BPA are endocrine disruptors. Do we get enough in day-to-day life to make a difference?
Two Canadian environmentalists decided to find out. They ran the experiment on themselves, and what they discovered is disconcerting.
Guests: Rick Smith, PhD, is executive director of Environmental Defense. He’s one of Canada’s leading environmentalists and has a doctorate in biology from the University of Guelph.
Bruce Lourie started one of Canada’s largest environmental consultancies. He is president of the Ivey Foundation.
Their book is Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things. The website is
The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. Podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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  1. PP

    Dried Chick peas or garabanzos should be soaked in 3 waters over 24 hours, like any other bean product before cooking. Otherwise the canned version should be used by NASA to jet propel people to the moon!

  2. kbe

    Pressure cook dried chickpeas. Cuts the cooking time to a fraction of that required for stovetop simmering.

  3. PP

    Long ago I was taught to rinse canned tuna, etc. to get rid of the oil. I do that for canned veggies if I use them in soup to get rid of the salt. Does that help remove BPH from the product?
    Have been running our pillows in the dryer for 3-6 minutes when they get damp overnight from perspiration. The pillows are mostly fiber fill, except for my foam pillow. Would that release chemicals? Or should I take the pillow slips off and dry them separately?

  4. cm

    Never salt beans until they are done cooking or they will be tough.

  5. lw

    soak chickpeas overnight w/ a little sea salt and this cuts down their cooking time less than 1/2 (easy to prep garbanzo beans this way – to avoid cans!)

  6. EJ

    For additional information, one should read the research papers by Frederick vom Saal (several of which are available for free). His research, which I’ve been following for several years, focuses on biphenol-A (BPA) and other endocrine disrupting chemicals. It’s easy to make beneficial changes. For example, I no longer heat food in the microwave in a plastic container.
    In addition, there are also some good books such as…
    “The Body Toxic: How the hazardous chemistry of everyday things threatens our health and well-being.” by Nena Baker, 2008
    “Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry” by Elizabeth Grossman

  7. bicycletta

    Are plastic baggies for home storage and the plastic bags that frozen vegetables and fruits come in BPA plastics, as well? I heard the tail end of the show missed any reference to these.

  8. JAR

    Water is bad for the human body in excessive amounts. Do you want to ban water? Ha, ha. People know what is good/bad for them. We just lack self-discipline and prefer cake and candy to fruits and vegetables.

  9. BobK

    The industry is well established on what foods can do the human body both positive and negative. What we don’t always know is how other chemicals or processes affect us. Remember, the industry is out to sell their stuff and they don’t always perform detailed testing on their products but usually put bottom line profits before human safety.
    It wasn’t too long ago that X-raying your feet was acceptable (and we were X-raying more than our feet), smoking was OK, second hand smoking was OK, there was never a concern about mercury in fish, never a concern about chemicals contaminating fish ponds, preservatives in foods to make them last forever, trans fats, chemical preservatives, and the list goes on forever.
    The food industry has loaded too many of our products with salt, sugar, and fat… the 3 items that makes products sell but are bad for the human body in excessive amounts. To take lightly potential affects from any packaging materials is irresponsible as at this point in time YOU or I don’t have positive proof that it is harmless or harmful. So why take a chance?
    The point being is that we as consumers should demand that the food industry keep our food products as pure as possible. Once again, I don’t want any foreign materials in what I consume and plastics most definitely infuse into our food products. That is fact.

  10. Hillary M.

    We don’t get this show in our area but we were on the road and happened to tune in. This show was great, but I was wondering if you could take it a bit further? I am very interested in nano-technology; it seems to me that as horrible as the effects of these chemicals are, they are nothing like what is being introduced into our world (and bodies) by nano-technology. Have the authors studied this twist on miracle chemicals?

  11. JAR

    I’m more concerned that obese people think about the kind of food that they put in the plastic rather than the plastic itself.
    Fear mongering gets the headlines and sells books to naive people who don’t understand how to assess risk. You want to improve your health then eat less, eat more healthy foods, exercise. It is not that complicated.

  12. beau

    Since it seems there could be no chance of changing JAR’s negativity, I was not going to try. However, since I have a few moments I thought I would contradict a few things from JAR.
    1. Many ancients actually seem to have lived longer than many of us of the modern era:
    Rameses II died circa 1213 BCE at 92;
    Xenophon of Colophon died 470 BCE at 90;
    Democritus of Abdera died 360 BCE at 106;
    Plato of Athens died 347 BCE at 80;
    Ptolemy I Soter died 283 BCE at 84;
    Pyrrho of Ellis died 270 BCE at 90;
    Eratosthenes of Cirene died 190 BCE at 95.
    In actuality, we have to guess at what was the general age-lifespan because, essentially, we weren’t there. Recently a news article stated our children’s generation will be shorter-lived than ours because of eroding-health issues. As far as food and chemicals not being linked to cancer, that is simply erroneous, unsupported, and untrue. JAR might benefit from some general homework re chemicals and cancer links.
    As to the postings of Abigail and SSP: start anywhere, but start now. 1. Buy a bread machine (not expensive at all), throw the ingredients into the machine, punch start, walk away and come back to homemade w/o all those ugly, nasty chems.
    2. Go online for a pizza dough recipe, throw the ingredients into a food processor, pulse, remove the dough, let rise once, rolling-pin dough flat, toss on the ingredients you want for healthy pizza.
    3. Get recipe online for slow-cooker yogurt, follow directions and have the best Greek yogurt for 1/5 the regular price w/o the added chemicals that turn healthy into an unhealthy chem-pot.
    4. Try to replace canned goods with fresh, frozen veggies and fruit – and take a walk through the Farmers Market to see what’s new (good incidental exercise, too).
    5. Exercise: walk, walk, walk (my drive is 125′ to the road – when I first began walking, it took 3 very heavy-breathing-gasping breaks from the house to the road. But I had to start somewhere). I now brisk-walk AM&PM a total 1&1/2 miles a day.
    6. Check out the library contents here at People’s – there is mucho additional info.
    The main point is to start. You can start in your own home by just moving in time to music or when watching TV. I do strength training during Wheel of Fortune (that slow spinning wheel drives me nuts). Just start. And become curious about information that you can adapt to yourself and glean all info you can – like here at People’s. Get started and good luck.

  13. concerned

    It’s unfortunate you feel that way. I found this information to be very informative and helpful in my journey towards becoming a more healthy individual. And hey, if it gets obese individuals thinking about what they are putting in the microwave…how could that be a bad thing?

  14. JAR

    There was a time when there were NO artificial chemicals, and everyone ate all natural foods, and we lived on average about 35 years. People live longer today then ever–and we have artificial chemicals all around us. If you want to prevent disease, eat less and exercise more. People have been microwaving in plastic since the microwave was invented.
    There is no link to cancer. What’s the next issue the fear mongers will focus on? Oh yeah, cell phone electric force fields. The problem with fear mongering is that it can have dire repercussions. Look at the rise of whooping cough due to people not vaccinating their kids. Some take these fear mongers seriously with very harmful results. Learn to assess risk.

  15. beau

    Ditto to the postings of Carrboro Al and Bob. After reading JAR’s comment, I wanted to contradict what this individual posted, but thought such a strident comment illustrated a set-in-concrete position that no argument could ever persuade otherwise.
    Carrboro and Bob did just fine, but I would add something. The People’s Pharmacy site provides information in a most reasonable fashion that allows a common sense contradiction to the Big Pharma TV ads and their skewed “recent research” that supports the medication Big Pharma is trying to literally shove down our throats.
    Big Pharma has billions of $$$$ to persuade us “You need this medication, now!” We ordinary citizens just don’t have much on our side. So, thanks People’s.

  16. Bob

    In response to JAR. The point being is that the industry doesn’t know IF these chemicals are harmful or not. Remember when the use of asbestos was considered completely safe? And you didn’t even eat it. Cigarette smoke. Pesticides. Statin drugs. Premarin? And the list goes on. ALL were at one time considered harmless and eventually became concerns and in some cases banned.
    So the smart thing to do is to err on the safe side which is don’t use them at all. We have a viable alternative and one that has been used for years and years and that is glass containers. So instead of attacking these authors why don’t you show conclusive evidence that plastics do NOT harm the human body?
    And we are not discussing auto accidents or suicides as they are separate issues. However, remember when the auto industry didn’t care about seat belts or recap tires or safety frames or gas tank issues? All that has changed once they had better data what were the causes of injuries during an accident.
    If you look around you today kids have more medical issues than I can ever remember 40 or 50 years ago. Why? Diet? Stress? Plastics? Cancer seems to be all around us today when years ago I only knew of a few people with cancer. Why is this? Once again I don’t want anything in my food products but the food itself. If spoilage is a problem find another way to solve this problem. If shipping is a problem (plastic vs glass) find a better packing technique.
    In the past I drank too much bottled water that tasted like plastic. I don’t know if this affected my well being or not. Do you? And if so please present this forum with your lab studies that justifies your case.

  17. Carrboro Al

    It is hard to know where to start with a comment like “Jar’s”. The People’s Pharmacy has been providing accurate, consumer oriented information for years now. It is not only a reliable source of information on medications and health issues, but a much needed counter-weight to the industry which profits from drugs and chemicals whether they are needed or not. They regularly host well-informed, nationally-recognized guests who bring up to date information.
    As for their recent show on the dangers of some plastics, I say, we need more of this. There is mounting scientific evidence that some common ingredients in plastics disrupt the hormone system and can cause damage. This is particularly true for developing fetuses and young children, who are growing rapidly and have fewer natural defenses.
    Of course there are other risks, including from automobiles. Some are more obvious and easier to see than others. The chemicals that off-gas from heating plastic are dangerous, too. Just as no smart person drives without a seatbelt today (I remember when they did), it is wise to avoid heating food in plastic. Joe and Terry are not saying don’t eat, or don’t use the microwave, they advise caution and suggest using glass containers. Helping listeners sort out real from from spurious risks, effective from ineffective or even harmful treatments, is what The People’s Pharmacy does best. I was shocked to learn that most chemical are not tested for safely before they can be used — mostly we find out only long after of problems. Thanks and keep it up!

  18. JAR

    I heard these guys on a local NPR station and parts of the People’s Pharmacy show and all I can say is they are total quacks. One I gather has a doctorate in biology–not chemistry. The idea that microwaving plastic will kill you is complete and utter nonsense. And it disturbs me that my NPR stations give these fear mongers any credence. It is all about risk assessment. You drive in your car and the risks are astronomical with 40,000 deaths a year. Suicide is a horrendous risk. So we focus on ridiculous, potential, problems. Airing these guys is a disservice. Why not air the anti-vaccinationists as well? We have 300 pound Americans worrying about what they microwave their food in. What a joke.

  19. ssp

    I haven’t been as diligent, but I’ve made changes in my lifestyle to avoid/reduce meds, under doctor’s/nutritionist’s supervision, as much as I’ve thought reasonable/possible, for me.
    I use 2 tsp. of turmeric + 1 clove of garlic in a nutritional smoothie (to reduce blood pressure). It also contains fruit, + omega 3s + nutritional proteins. I use many vitamin supplements, and a diet tending towards DASH. I recognize the necessity of losing weight to reduce my blood pressure, and try to exercise early in the day, while I still have energy.

  20. abigail

    To the posters who have been making their own bread, chickpeas and etc., Until we have been on a strict regimen and recovered our energy and will, where do you suggest starting?
    I am among those who have easy access to organic foods. However, you have energy that I don’t have yet. Some pointers on how to start on some easy to prep make at home food?

  21. beau

    I was overweight, a Type II diabetic, on two blood pressure meds, a diabetic med and a statin. No medical professional provided any information in response to my protest of an unbelievable number of side-effects. Online I read “in reference to the med..warning”, “the following is a list of potential side-effects of this med…”. And saw myself. I began exercising, dropped the weight, all the meds and statin and all the nasty side effects.
    My next concern was replacing the meds with natural supplements. Finding that information was crucial – and thanks to People’s Pharmacy and a a couple of other sites I did so.
    Next came food and I was horrified when reading the ingredients list, finding those ingredients online and never being able to find some of those chemical additives in any food group. The description of those chemicals (like those in soda/cola will make your hair stand stiff on your head and make you ask yourself what have you voluntarily been doing to you).
    Until my friends began noticing the remarkable physical changes, I was ragged on for going whacko. I no longer ate canned food (bisphenol-A), commercial bread goods and pizza (too many nasty chems to list), soda/cola (aspartame and too many others to list), and the HUGE DOSES OF SALT found in almost every prepared, frozen food and the majority of canned goods – a few bites and Wham! salt overdose.
    I now bake all my bread, muffins and pizza, buy frozen veggies w/no salt, make my own yogurt (easy slow cooker recipe and no aspartame), hit the farmers market regularly, planning my own veggie and fruit garden, bore my friends w/lectures (“Don’t eat that or feed it to your kids…”) and have essentially become (to my horror) my grandmother. Who used to do same as above.
    I realize this is a long post, but it is crucial to understand no warnings will be provided by the manufacturers of those consumables that include in their products chemicals no one should ingest – like massive doses of salt and chems not identifiable in any food group. You can improve your health by scrutinizing what you put in your and your family’s mouth.
    And my friends are coming over to my side – I have infected them with common sense.

  22. Bob

    The point here is for everyone to address these concerns to the food industry and inform them that unless their products contain ONLY the item we THINK we are buying then we will stop purchasing their products. Low sales figures always get one’s attention.
    As an example some time ago I was trying to watch my salt intake and noticed that it was virtually impossible to find a can of soup that contained less than 800 mg of salt. This is about 1/3 the daily allowance! So I sent my comments to several soup manufacturers and indicated that not only did their soup taste like salted water but it was unhealthy as any doctor will tell you.
    Lo and behold within six months these same manufactures came out with lower salt products. Don’t know if I caused this or not but unless they know your feelings/concerns they will continue to include stuff in these products that are not good for your health. In most cases it saves them money or it is one of the 3 products used to sell anything which is salt, fat, and sugar.
    Like we were told with cigarette smoke for years and years the plastics industry is telling us the same about the chemicals that are infusing into our food products and that “……….the amounts are so small that…” Yeah right! As for me I don’t want ANY amount of plastics in my food products or anything else that may affect my well being. If we have to go back to glass containers as a replacement of plastic or plastic coated cans then so be it. What would you rather deal with health issues or an occasional glass breakage?
    Finally most people are not aware of how much can be ingested through the skin. We did some lab experiments once and it was amazing how quickly that a chemical that was placed on one part of the body was then tasted at the tongue (seconds). When I see people spreading lawn fertilizer using their bare hands or allowing all kinds of chemicals on their skin I shudder.
    Same goes for hair products which used to contain formaldehyde. Do we really want that in our bodies? Is it really necessary? Again, let the manufactures of these products know that this is NOT acceptable.

  23. beau

    If you are what you eat, then when these dangerous chemicals are consumed they are infused into your body and absolutely must effect you down to the genetic level. Unfortunately, the EPA and FDA (which are wholly owned subsidiaries of special interests in my opinion) do nothing until the angry shrill is so loud the protesting noise cannot be ignored. Since we, the citizens, constitute the foundations of the government, why do we allow these special interests to poison us?

  24. Connie

    So glad you did a show on this! Needs to be told!

  25. cwc

    What a great show! It saddens me so to realize all of the ways we have been violating the health of our children by using the microwave. Also, to realize that everyday “personal care” products are contaminating us is very scary. I will definitely buy the book. Thanks. Chris

  26. KPM

    I am I the only one who listened to the show today and wanted to crawl under the covers, but then I find out that my covers aren’t safe. Either they have VOC’s or bed bugs, O! next weeks show idea. I am half joking. It does need to be said and we do need to be aware that over the years we have used chemicals to “improve” our way of life. Only ironically they have shortened it or negatively alter it and when we do go it ain’t pretty.

  27. Judy P.

    Re: chickpeas, you don’t need to cook them at all. You can buy sprouted raw ones in most health food stores. They’d be in the cooler.

  28. Judy P

    Thanks for a wonderfully informative show!
    I’d like to know about a few things that the show didn’t address regarding the various harmful chemicals mentioned by the authors:
    Are they in perfumes? Are they in make-up (lipstick, lip-liner, blush, eyeliner, eye shadow, foundation) and hair-care products besides shampoo and conditioner, such as hair mousse, hairspray, hair gel, etc.? Cosmetics is a huge area for women to be concerned about. I do check (a very helpful website that tells consumers what’s in the products they use) but I can’t always find cosmetics and personal care products that are made from only pure ingredients.
    Another health matter that needs to be addressed is that studies have shown that when food is heated at high temperatures (basically anything other than steaming or boiling), harmful chemicals (acrylamides) are produced that cause aging and chronic disease in the people eating them. This is why there’s growing interest in the raw foods/raw vegan lifestyle. I hope your show will address that. I realize you cover the pharmacy industry and not food, but we need to get the message out about everything in our lifestyles that can be harming us so we can make changes.

  29. MLV

    Forget the canned chickpeas! Make a batch, freeze, and use as needed! Should I say easy peasy?

  30. Paul R

    In our house we run the rinse cycles on our washers. How much does that help reduce these pollutant levels?
    Comment: Very informative indeed. I guess the answer is research?

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